In the first article I spoke about the importance of making a long-term action plan and doing some serious research before departure. Now let's look into the more concrete aspects of your relocation plan to Germany: how to calculate a realistic budget, tips for learning the language, when to set the departure date and how to find temporary accommodation.
Step Three: Start Saving Money
The next step of your action plan is to build up your savings — how much depends on your lifestyle and what you want to be doing in Germany. If you plan to work, it can realistically take months to find a job and get a work permit, so you’ll need savings to live off of. (It took me 6 months to find work, get a work permit, and get my first paycheck!) And if you’re a language or university student, you’ll need roughly €10,000–11,000 Euros set aside as proof you can afford to live here for a year.
As an example, a totally made-up but realistic budget for 1 month in Berlin as a freelancer might look something like this:
Note that when you first move here, you’ll generally also likely need 3 months’ rent as a deposit on your apartment. That means that this freelancer above should ideally arrive with ca. €14,000€ for the first 6 months (assuming it takes that long to start earning much income).
Step Four: Start Learning German
Of course you can live and work in Berlin without German, but you will be stuck in the expat bubble and unable to solve a lot of your own everyday problems if you don’t speak the language. In other cities, speaking German can be even more crucial.
Did You Know? We Offer German Classes for Absolute Beginners, Live or Streaming.
It takes years to learn a language fluently, no matter what some people claim on the interwebs. Start while you’re still abroad with a live online German class to make sure you’re ready to hit the ground speaking! Or if you’re not ready for a live class, try a language learning app like Duolingo, Babbel or Busuu — even a few key words and phrases will come in handy once you arrive.
Step Five: Plan a Date to Leave
It’s best to start planning 6–12 months before you want to move abroad, and time of year can matter. Many people (i.e. hiring managers) are away on vacation in July, August and December, so arriving then to apply for jobs may not be a great move. We’ve generally heard that January-May and September-October are the best months for getting hired. If you are a university student, you need time to apply and be accepted into a program, and you’ll want to arrive at least a few weeks before the start of a semester.
Citizens of the US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, S. Korea and Israel are permitted to move to Germany visa-free, as a tourist for 90 days. (The 90 days is for the whole Schengen Zone actually — so careful if you were visiting other countries before going to Germany.) In other words, you have 90 days to find a job/school/etc. and apply for a residency permit before you have to leave the country, so count your days carefully using a Schengen calculator, and use them wisely.
If you are from a different non-EU country, it will be necessary to apply for a National (Type D) Visa for Germany at the German embassy or consulate in your country of residence before you move. You can find your German embassy or consulate here.
Step Six: Find a Short-Term Place to Stay Where You Can Register Your Address
Before you move, book a short-term place to live for the first 1–2 months (or longer) as it can take a lot of time and money to find a good long-term apartment in Germany. You probably don't want to stay in a hotel or hostel for months, so help ease the pressure on yourself by ensuring you have a comfortable place lined up for those first weeks. There are many furnished apartment websites out there, like our partners at Wefindflats, The Homelike or Airbnb, and booking for a month or longer often gets you a discounted price.
Did You Know? We Help Expats Find Accommodation in Berlin.
Definitely make sure before booking that you will be able to officially register your address at this location (called ‘Anmeldung’), because that is the very important first bureaucratic step you’ll have to complete.